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Thursday, March 14, 2013
Probing Earth's Deep Interior
Nice try, but the experimental result is to demonstrate that the
fifth force acts far below any threshold we can establish. It either
does not exist or does not matter. I am reminded of the infinity
inverse problem of empirical mathematics. Except there it really
matters and likely has a lot to say about forces also.
So far this looks to be a long shot, but it does open up the question
of actually understanding the internal structure of a planet such as
ours. We also have an evolving question regarding rock compression
and deep gravitational effects inside the core. I am uncomfortable
merely extending our knowledge from the surface.
As I have posted long before in my article 'the Pleistocene
Nonconformity' I make the conjecture that there exists a slip plane
at least one hundred miles deep consisting of approximately fifty
meters of elemental carbon. Below this slip plane all we have is
speculation and a seismic profile of sorts.
Technique for Probing Earth's Deep Interior
by Staff Writers
(SPX) Feb 26, 2013
spin-spin interaction (blue wavy lines) in which the spin-sensitive
detector on Earths surface interacts with geoelectrons (red dots)
deep in Earths mantle. The arrows on the geoelectrons indicate their
spin orientations, opposite that of Earths magnetic field lines
(white arcs). Illustration: Marc Airhart (University of Texas at
Austin) and Steve Jacobsen (Northwestern University). Credit: Marc
Airhart, University of Texas at Austin, and Steve Jacobsen,
researchers at Amherst
College in Massachusetts and the University of Texas at Austin have
described a new technique based in particle physics that might one
day reveal, in more detail than ever before, the composition and
characteristics of the deep Earth.
There's just one
catch: the technique relies on a fifth force of nature that has not
yet been detected, but some particle physicists think it might exist.
The fifth force would be in addition to gravity, the weak and strong
nuclear forces and electromagnetism.
Physicists call this
fifth force a long-range spin-spin interaction. As theorized, the
fifth force would rely on the building blocks of atoms (electrons,
protons and neutrons), separated over vast distances, to "feel"
each other's presence.
If it does exist, this
exotic new force would connect matter at Earth's surface with matter
hundreds or even thousands of miles deep within Earth's mantle and
could potentially provide new information about the composition and
characteristics of deep Earth, which is poorly understood because of
rewarding and surprising thing about this project was realizing that
particle physics could actually be used to study the deep Earth,"
says Jung-Fu "Afu" Lin, associate professor at the
University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences and
co-author of the study appearing this week in the journal Science.
The research was
supported by NSF's Geoscience and Mathematical and Physical Science
Directorates, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the
Carnegie/DOE Alliance Center.
This new force could
help settle a scientific quandary. When earth scientists previously
have tried to model how factors such as iron concentration and
physical and chemical properties of matter vary with depth - for
example, using the way earthquake rumbles travel through the Earth or
through laboratory experiments designed to mimic the intense
temperatures and pressures of the deep Earth - they get different
The fifth force,
assuming it exists, might help reconcile these conflicting lines of
Earth's mantle is a
thick geological layer sandwiched between the thin outer crust and
central core, made up mostly of iron-bearing minerals. The atoms in
these minerals and the subatomic particles making up the atoms have a
property called spin.
Spin can be thought of
as an arrow that points in a particular direction. It is thought that
Earth's magnetic field causes some of the electrons in these mantle
minerals to become slightly spin-polarized, meaning the directions in
which they spin are no longer completely random, but have some
preferred orientation. These electrons have been dubbed
The goal of this
project was to see whether the scientists could use the proposed
long-range spin-spin interaction to detect the presence of these
The researchers, led
by Larry Hunter, professor of physics at Amherst College, first
created a computer model of Earth's interior to map the expected
densities and spin directions of geoelectrons.
The model was based in
part on insights gained from Lin's laboratory experiments, which
measure electron spins in minerals at the high temperatures and
pressures of Earth's interior. This map gave the researchers clues
about the strength and orientations of interactions they might expect
to detect in their laboratory in Amherst, Mass.
researchers used a specially designed apparatus to search for
interactions between geoelectrons deep in the mantle and subatomic
particles at Earth's surface. The team's experiments essentially
explored whether the spins of electrons, neutrons or protons in
various laboratories might have a different energy, depending on the
direction with respect to the Earth that they were pointing.
"We know, for
example, that a magnet has a lower energy when it is oriented
parallel to the geomagnetic field and it lines up with this
particular direction - that is how a compass works," Hunter
removed this magnetic interaction and looked to see if there might be
some other interaction with our experimental spins. One
interpretation of this 'other' interaction is that it could be a
long-range interaction between the spins in our apparatus and the
electron spins within the Earth, that have been aligned by the
geomagnetic field. This is the long-range spin-spin interaction we
were looking for."
apparatus was not able to detect any such interactions, the
researchers could at least infer that such interactions, if they
exist, must be incredibly weak - no more than a millionth of the
strength of the gravitational attraction between the particles.
That's useful information as scientists now look for ways to build
ever more sensitive instruments to search for the elusive fifth
"No one had
previously thought about the possible interactions that might occur
between the Earth's spin-polarized electrons and precision laboratory
spin-measurements," says Hunter.
If the long-range
spin-spin interactions are discovered in future experiments,
"geoscientists can eventually use such information to reliably
understand the geochemistry and geophysics of the planet's interior,"